Researchers Will Make Batteries from Used Glass

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It almost seems like we can create any substance from waste – well, maybe not everything but we’re getting closer. Now Researchers are potentially creating batteries from used glass bottles. Come again?

Researchers at the University of California’s Riverside College of Engineering are using used glass bottles to create nano silicon anodes for high performance lithium-ion batteries. It’s a process that sounds more daunting than it is — and according to researchers, it’s a simple method of conversion.

But First, the Benefits of Silicon:

Silicon anodes can store up to ten times more energy than conventional graphite anodes. During charging and discharging processes, they become unstable because they shrink and expand. To combat this issue, the researchers discovered that when they convert the silicon to nanoscale levels, it significantly reduces this issue.

Through the combination of relatively pure silicon dioxide and a low chemical reaction, they created a lithium-ion half-cell battery that can store around four times more energy than conventional graphite anodes.

Conversion Process:

The chemical process is low-costing, and involves a three step process that involves crushing and grinding the glass bottles into a fine white powder. This results in a magnesiothemic reduction to transform the silicon dioxide into nanostructured silicon.

It also results in coating the silicon nanoparticles with carbon to improve their energy storage properties and stability.

One glass bottle can provide enough nanosilicon for hundreds of coin cell batteries.

From Landfills to Labs:

Despite the recycling programs, billions of glass bottles end up in landfills each year — and they don’t exactly disintegrate into the environment.

Glass is one of the longest-lasting, human-made materials in the world. It can take up to one million years for a glass bottle to disintegrate. Conditions in landfills also allow glasses to preserve for longer. Glass artefacts from glass in Egypt around 2000 B.C. exist till this day.

From Rare to Common:

Initially, glass was a rare and precious commodity because it required labour-intensive production. Modern methods of glass production allow it to be produced in mass quantities, and can lead to limitless recycling. Glass is able to retain its strength and be reused in various industrial and domestic uses.

What’s Next?

The batteries will extend the range of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. They will provide greater power with fewer charges for personal electronics like phones and laptops.

Did you know?
Recycling one glass bottle can save enough energy to run a computer for 25 minutes?

 

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About Author

Nadia Zaidi

Nadia Zaidi is a freelance multimedia journalist whose work is featured in several print and digital publications. She previously developed and hosted a show on youth issues for community television, and produces short-documentaries for public outreach. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Ryerson University.

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